View Poll Results: How's it (usually) work for you?

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  • Come up with it in my head

    7 23.33%
  • Come up with it by tinkering around on an instrument (guitar, keyboard, whatever)

    5 16.67%
  • Pretty even mix of the 2 above

    14 46.67%
  • other (splain)

    4 13.33%
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Thread: How do you come up w/that initial idea/set of lyrics/melody/etc

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strat1958 View Post
    I know this thread is old, but there are some good ideas in here.
    I noticed that the vast majority here write the music first, then agonize over writing a lyric.
    I am sort of the opposite. I subscribe to the Bernie Taupin/Elton John method, where Bernie would present Elton with a set of lyrics and Elton would set it to music. Bernie finds it impossible to write music and Elton can't write lyrics to save his life.

    Anyway, first I try to come up with an idea for a song, then I agonize over writing lyrics, with no idea of how it will sound...will it be fast, slow, piano, guitar based? No clue.

    After - and ONLY after - I have a complete set of lyrics, I then put on my Elton hat and write some chord changes and a melody, to fit the lyrics.

    That's the only way I can make it work. If I try it the opposite way, it's like I'm trying to learn Chinese.
    The words gush. Sometimes I have to put a lot of work into finding the right chords. Melody, forget it. If I can talk in key, I'm there.

  2. #32
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    How do you come up w/that initial idea/set of lyrics/melody/etc ?
    It's absolutely impossible to catalogue every way in which the initial ideas come because there have been so many different ways. Two quick examples:
    I hadn't played guitar for about 6 years and last Easter, I needed to re~track a guitar piece from 21 years ago that I just got fed up with before I could mix the song it was in. The chords were quite easy {it was the first or second thing I'd ever written on guitar, way back in 1989} but I had so much trouble getting my fingers to hold the chords and though I managed it, it really hurt, both muscles and fingertips. So I decided to get back into playing and determined to practice just a little, most days. The first day I picked up the guitar, I was doodling around, just trying to get some confidence back and did so by playing easy chords and I just hit D,C,A and G. So corny, but I liked the sound of the sequence so I just played it over and over and once I felt warmed up, did my usual thing of rambling without any specific direction for 15 minutes. The next day I played those chords as a warm up then for no apparent sensible reason, did a sequence of Bb,D,F,G# in an odd time signature. They went together nicely, I thought, and used that as a warm up each time I came to play. Then I just felt this strange tug to play Bm to E to F# to A somewhat slower than the other sequences. But they all went together nicely and I decided that I would pursue that as a song. I had been searching for and experimenting with other sequences but those ones stuck. By this point I was confident that I could come up with a melody and had decided to call the song 6th Grade girls, partly because I remembered the episode from "Hey, Arnold !" of the same name, partly because I work in a school. A couple of melodies came to me that I really liked and decided to use both of them ~ one for 2 verses and the other for the 3rd verse. I went through lots of lines before settling on the lyric and the song could have lyrically gone in a number of directions. Because I'm working with Year 6 kids this year, a number of them inspired me to use them as a start point but the song soon developed in a different direction. It's funny, once I had that iinitial DCGA sequence, I felt really confident that I would, not could, but would come up with something. It has proved to be something of a watershed for me actually.
    Then last December, I happened to watch this video on unusual time signatures. It was quite interesting and no sooner had I turned off the telly to go to work than this kind of riff came to me. I counted it into 5/4 time and it really flowed. Then I went uppstairs and another one came which I also put into 5/4 time but which had a very different feel, structure and import to the other bit. I happened to have 2 very short things I'd written {"Europunk" and "Ikky Vibration"} lying around so I took each bit and added one to each of my 5/4 sections and ended up with 2 songs. The one thing I remembered that the guy in the video had said was that usually, it was the contrast between the unusual time sig and the straight ahead one that made for real creative interest and in the past when I'd used unusual sigs, I'd also found that. A couple of weeks later, my friend played drums on both and once I'd taken him through what the drums should be, he inflected them with his own flavour and I loved what he did. The lyric of "Europunk" was easy as that's the only word in the whole song, repeated over and over with 7 second silences in the verse bit then tumbling out for the chorus then the 5/4 bit. For "Ikky" I've had the melody in my head for probably 40 years because it derived from a dumb song my older sister used to sing that she just made up. But I only wrote the lyrics about 3 weeks ago while I was on the road. There's 5 verses and 4 choruses and the 5/4 bit is the chorus. I don't think either change in time sounds obvious. The lyric is one of those that's about a whole load of different things but in a tight stream of consciousness way, whatever that means ! There's thoughts on religion, politicians, wild animals and a whole lot more but bundled together to sound almost uniformly about something.

  3. #33
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    Just quickly on lyrics for a moment. I've heard so many people over the years say that they try to tell a story with their lyrics and that's a valid approach. I sometimes do that too. But I would not write many songs if that was all I did. I'd be waiting until the Russians give up their nuclear weapons if I just tried to craft stories all the time.
    One thing that I learned from writers like Dylan and some of the other writers from the psychedelic era and Irish folk and folk rock artists that sang in Gaelic, is that pretty much any lyric is a goer if there's a decent melody or if the words mesh well with the music. So I will utilize pretty much any idea that comes. It doesn't have to make sense. It will eventually. I was looking at a lyric I wrote years ago called "Did you hear the one about...." and I realized that the lyric was loosely about my Mum. I don't think that was consciously in my mind when I wrote it. But as I looked at the words, I thought, wow, this seems to be an oblique reference to her.
    So really, I encourage lyricists not to be so fussy. The subconscious mind can leak some good stuff to the surface.
    Also, I'm not above whipping off lines or phrases or parts of lines and phrases from films, comics, famous speeches or bits from newspapers, books, magazines, cartoons or whatever.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by grimtraveller View Post
    Just quickly on lyrics for a moment. I've heard so many people over the years say that they try to tell a story with their lyrics and that's a valid approach. I sometimes do that too. But I would not write many songs if that was all I did. I'd be waiting until the Russians give up their nuclear weapons if I just tried to craft stories all the time.
    One thing that I learned from writers like Dylan and some of the other writers from the psychedelic era and Irish folk and folk rock artists that sang in Gaelic, is that pretty much any lyric is a goer if there's a decent melody or if the words mesh well with the music. So I will utilize pretty much any idea that comes. It doesn't have to make sense. It will eventually. I was looking at a lyric I wrote years ago called "Did you hear the one about...." and I realized that the lyric was loosely about my Mum. I don't think that was consciously in my mind when I wrote it. But as I looked at the words, I thought, wow, this seems to be an oblique reference to her.
    So really, I encourage lyricists not to be so fussy. The subconscious mind can leak some good stuff to the surface.
    Also, I'm not above whipping off lines or phrases or parts of lines and phrases from films, comics, famous speeches or bits from newspapers, books, magazines, cartoons or whatever.
    Russia? Try waiting until the U.S. gives up its nukes!

    You have a good way of getting at your song writing. I'm not a pro, just a long-time dabbler. So I don't know much. But just to keep the record straight, here are few words on making sense, being fussy, and lines and phrases from films and whatnot:

    MAKING SENSE:

    When I say "tell a story," I'm really saying what my songs aren't: "Baby, I love you, I'll love you forever, our love is meant to be, I can't live without you, I long for your touch, please say you love me, too. . . ."

    I don't think that way, so I don't write that way.

    A story doesn't have to make literal sense. When I hear Dylan say, "The bricks fall on Grand Street where the neon madmen climb," I can see it. When I hear "Baby, I love you," I can't. I can hear it, but I can't see it.

    So I don't write feelings. I write stories. I don't make people feel things. I make them see things. Most successful song writers write feelings, and I love some of them. George Harrison. Carole King. Aretha. It's just not how my mind works.

    BEING FUSSY:

    Your songs "leak from the subconscious." Everyone's does. We just leak different stuff. For me, they don't leak. They gush. Coming up with words is not like waiting for unilateral disarmament. I have more words running through my head than I know what to do with. My wife sometimes complains that my "mind is always somewhere else." She's right. I try to pay attention to her, to bosses, to coworkers, to newscasters, but my brain is always jammed up with the other stuff. Glad I'm finally retired. Holding down a job was always hell.

    So: Fussy? Far from it!

    LINES AND PHRASES FROM FILMS AND WHATNOT:

    Almost all our words come from somewhere else. I suppowe we all make up words from time to time. For example, here's one of mine: preclognition: that funny feeling that you're going to need a plumber.

    But mainly we're just magpies. We build out nests out what we steal. We hear something and have an idea. And sometimes the idea becomes a song. Which gives someone else another idea.

    Coincidentally, here's one wrote last week (excuse the Americanisms):

    “Magpie”

    I can sound just like the Beatles, I can sound like Mick and Keith,
    there’s no artistic shortcut to which I’m not beneath.
    Just hand me a cocktail napkin and a Bic to jot ‘em with.
    Accuse me of plagiarism and I’ll proudly plead the Fifth.

    I wrote you a purdy little lu-uv song I know you’re gonna love,
    ‘cause I get my inspiration from the angels up above.
    If that don’t work, I just rely on every song you’ve ever heard:
    I’ve heard ‘em, too, and got ‘em down, each riff and hook and word.

    They should revoke my poetic license and nail me to the wall:
    Every song I’ve ever written sounds like Hank or Tom T. Hall,
    but so far, hey, I’m still at large in God’s land of the free,
    ripping off the classics in two-part harmony.


    They love me down in Nashville, and I’m proud to call it home—
    can’t do no largemouth fishing in the Bronx or Prague or Rome.
    I never take vacation, ain’t no place I’d rather be,
    and ain’t no one complaining, and it sounds just fine to me.

    They should revoke my poetic license . . . .

    [string of guitar cliches — "Pretty Woman," "Day Tripper," "Secret Agent," and so on]

    They should revoke my poetic license . . . .
    Last edited by Delmont; 04-07-2020 at 07:35.

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